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Noctua NH-U9 TR4-SP3 Review: Strong Threadripper Cooling, Compact Form

Editor's Choice

Testing Results & Conclusion

Comparison Products

We compared the NH-U9 TR4-SP3 with its brethren, the NH-U12S TR4-SP3 and NH-U14S TR4-SP3, along with the Cooler Master MasterAir MA621P. Each cooler ran through tests atop our eight-core 1900X Threadripper processor, running on an MSI X399 Gaming Pro Carbon AC motherboard inside our Corsair Carbide 760T chassis.

Immediately, we saw the compact NH-U9 keeping our overclocked Threadripper CPU just about as cool as the much larger MasterAir MA621P.  Interestingly enough, the NH-U9 also went toe-to-toe with its larger sibling, the NH-U12S, narrowly edging past it in 100% fan speed thermal load testing.

We already knew the compact size of the NH-U9 TR4-SP3 required use of a pair of 92mm fans, which are rated up to 2,000RPM by Noctua, so this fan speed graph gave us zero surprises.

On the other hand, we were surprised to see that the pair of 92mm fans on the NH-U9 TR4-SP3 kicked up similar registered noise levels to the dual 120mm fan MasterAir MA621P, although both were in the top two of our fastest fan speeds on the previous graph. The Noctua fans seemed to make better use of their fan speed for airflow.

Higher noise levels and a close thermal performance mean the NH-U9 and MA621P saw some hits when it came to acoustic efficiency.

Every cooler tested here registered under 30 decibels (adjusted), meaning we’re splitting hairs on a nearly silent cooler quartet. Priced at $70 at the time of writing, the NH-U9 TR4-SP3 sits just under the average unit price of the group as a whole.

Thermal imaging from the FLIR One Pro camera shows distinct differences of increased heat buildup at the tips of the heatpipes and cooling tower at 50% fan speeds. Alternatively, we see a larger volume of ejected thermal air mass around the top and sides of the cooler at 100% fan speeds, which is expected with higher airflow.

Conclusion

Noctua served up a trio of great performing air coolers designed specifically for AMD’s flagship processors, Threadripper, and its server equivalent, Epyc. As we begin to see market additions for slimmer workstation chassis and smaller enthusiast motherboards to support the TR4 and SP3 sockets, the need to have a high-performance, compact cooling solution continues to grow. The fact that the NH-U9 TR4-SP3 performs like coolers much larger is both brilliant and promising.

Noctua has shown that excellent air cooling does not require a massive cooling tower to be affixed within a PC case in order to achieve overclocking goals. This cooler steps in as The Little Engine That Could by doing the same job just as well, or even better, than larger cooling options on the market

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Garrett Carver
Garrett Carver

Garrett Carver is a contributor for Tom’s Hardware, primarily covering thermal compound comparisons and CPU cooling reviews; both air and liquid, including multiple variations of each.

  • ubercake
    For my own builds, I use nothing but Noctua coolers and fans. They are a great company to deal with and respond to any inquiry in a timely manner.

    That being said, I can only imagine the noise coming out of tiny fans like these would be close to a rack-mounted server's (tinier fans seem to run at higher speed more often = noisy), but they'd be quieter than anyone else's out there where the application requires a cooler on the smaller side.
    Reply
  • rubix_1011
    Surprisingly, it isn't nearly as noisy as one would imagine. The NH-U9 TR4-SP3 runs quieter than most 240 AIOs with fans at 50% and almost all at 100%.

    The cooler is very efficient with how well it handles thermal exchange.
    Reply
  • hannibal
    How does these compare to new stock cooler for treathripper?
    Reply
  • SkyBill40
    While the performance and cooling are excellent as has become a Noctua standard, good lord that color combination leaves much to be desired. I know that some of their stuff is available in black (thank goodness), but I'll never understand why they chose the main color combination.
    Reply
  • mahanddeem
    Can this support Intel socket 1151 CPUs?
    Reply
  • JQB45
    Need to be an old computer nerd to understand the colors.
    Reply
  • john.k.torset
    I would like to see what all three TR4 Noctua air coolers are capable of doing with an Threadripper 2990WX on full overclock. Please do such a comparison.
    Reply
  • photonboy
    1) Why bother with an 8-core TR CPU?
    That's what was tested but I don't see the point when the R7-2700 exists. I'd rather see a 16-core TR CPU tested which I doubt this cooler can handle.

    2) COMPACT build?
    What case does this make sense in?
    I'm really curious as it's too small to make sense in a larger case and I'm not sure what smaller cases it would fit in.
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    Nice to see TR4 get some much needed air support! Especially with the second gen TR4 CPUs coming soon.
    Reply
  • nibir2011
    I also dislike test on 8 cores. This makes no sense. Threadripper is 16 core period. Thats also confirmed by AMD to be most sold. Although noctua is a good brand. I fail to see the viability of using this or any Air Cooling solution on a 16 core processor. Can it be done? Yes. Should it be done? IMHO no. If you don't want peak performance you probably also don't need threadripper.

    As this is Tomshardware I shouldn't just leave comments. But also provide some proof here https://www.guru3d.com/articles_pages/noctua_nh_u9_nh_u12s_nh_u14s_tr4_sp3_for_ryzen_threadripper_review,10.html this same cooler hits around 85-90 degrees on 4 GHZ. Yup. You are welcome.
    Reply